I know, I know— Jell-O?
This is exactly the kind of recipe I swore that I would never post on Comfort du Jour. Its use of pre-packaged, artificially flavored and colored gelatin goes against every culinary instinct in my being and I hope you don’t see me as a food snob for saying so. After more than two decades of avoiding highly processed foods (like, um, Jell-O), my body gets raging mad over even a taste of artificial ingredients— usually with a display of symptoms ranging from inflammation and painful joints to headaches and digestive upset. It’s frustrating and kind of weird. But I am the unlucky bearer of an autoimmune disorder, and I just have to deal with it.
Despite all of that, I made this recipe and I am sharing it for one reason only: nostalgia.
I ran across this stained, crumpled note in the depths of my recipe box when I was looking for something else last week, and it gave me “all the feels.” You see, my grandpa on my dad’s side shared this recipe with me on one of my visits to see him in his post-retired days in Florida, back when I was oblivious to the effect of the aforementioned highly processed foods. Grandpa was a real character, and I enjoyed visiting him at his home in Cocoa, visiting interesting places such as Cape Canaveral and Ron Jon (the beach shop, which he assured me was the only one of its kind). I loved touring his beautiful rose garden that he tended with fierce dedication, and getting dressed up for dinner with him at some really, ahem, “fancy” establishments.
This neon-colored, congealed mess of a “salad” is something you’d expect to see in a cafeteria line-up, and that makes a lot of sense if you knew my grandpa. He loved cafeterias and buffets, and I chuckle when I remember the time he was so excited to take me out to eat at a place that he said “serves everything you could ever imagine— steak, pasta, fried chicken, salads, ice cream— all in one restaurant!” He raved about it during the entire car ride, and then he turned into the parking lot for Golden Corral. Thank goodness some high school prom kids came in for dinner that night or I might have felt overdressed!
Sincerely, I miss his fun-loving spirit, and when I shared this recipe with my husband, he commented that it was the first time I’d mentioned my grandpa as a culinary influence. But he wasn’t, really. During the years that my passion for cooking was developing, Grandpa owned and worked on a dairy farm and in his free time (that’s a joke), he also delivered mail on a rural route. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t in the kitchen much at all, except to bring in a fresh pitcher of milk to serve with dinner. He simply didn’t have much extra time, and when he did, we enjoyed fun things like picking peaches and riding in his boat. I was his first grandchild (daughter of his eldest son), and I like to believe I was his favorite. He sure treated me like it, and I suspect that my cousins all felt the same way.
It wasn’t until I was a young adult and Grandpa was retired that we started to bond over food. He had made banana bread one morning when I visited, and when I commented on the cranberry Jell-O salad in his recipe box, he told me to write down a copy. This recipe, he said, was a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving.
I’m sure glad we had some this week. 🙂
My Grandpa's Cranberry Jell-O Salad
This recipe is pure nostalgia for me, shared a long time ago by my paternal grandfather. It's an easy, fun way to use up leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving.
- 1 small box flavored gelatin (see ingredient note for suggestions)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup miniature marshmallows (Grandpa used the pastel multicolored ones)
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 1 cup leftover cranberry sauce (the whole berry kind)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecan pieces
- Whipped cream for serving (optional)
- Stir boiling water into gelatin in a medium size bowl until dissolved. Add miniature marshmallows and stir until they have melted to about half their original size. Add ice and stir to melt. Chill the mixture for about 30 minutes, until partially set.
- Stir partially set gelatin to loosen it up. Fold in leftover cranberry sauce and pecans. Transfer mixture to a small square or rectangle glass dish. Smooth the top, place a cover on it and refrigerate until firm.
- Cut into squares and top with a dollop of whipped cream.